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Race, religion, gender, social class, and geographic region played key roles in influencing an individual's choice about whether or not to support the American cause.
All whites could be free because enslaved African American laborers were not.
Even within these regions, people embraced the Revolution with differing degrees of enthusiasm.
Different social groups saw different meanings in the revolutionary movement.
While Philadelphia merchants believed independence would increase their wealth and shore up their social position, Philadelphia artisans believed that the revolutionary promises of equality and natural rights would open up new opportunities for social advancement and political power.
Perhaps most important, in rejecting taxation without representation, colonists were asserting their rights as Englishmen.
In establishing their own nation, however, they rejected the traditional form of government, monarchy, and developed a wholly new form of republican government that was best suited to their situation. Constitution was written, each state, through the writing of a state constitution, established a republican government (see Primary Source Fairfax Resolves ).Denominational differences, such as the division between Anglicans and Presbyterians, came to matter less than a common Protestant heritage.In addition, as colonists grew increasingly prosperous, they began to purchase substantial amounts of consumer goods from Britain, providing the material basis for a shared culture.Although textbooks are generally accurate in describing this transition, they fail to convey was what was new, different, and radical about what the American revolutionaries were doing. Yet the widespread ownership of land fundamentally changed the nature of representative government.Whereas in Britain only about one-fifth of the adult male population could vote for members of the House of Commons, one-half to three-quarters of all adult white males could vote for members of their individual colonial assemblies. To paraphrase Thomas Paine, whereas in England the King was the law, in America the law was king.Just as important, the textbooks miss an opportunity to generate intellectual excitement in students by highlighting the ways in which the Revolution was a radical experiment in liberty whose success was never guaranteed.Although textbooks continue to refer to it as "the American Revolution," historians now believe there was not one Revolution but many. Although most inhabitants in the colonies that rebelled against Britain were white and Protestant, and a majority were of English descent, nearly 20% of the population consisted of enslaved African Americans.Most textbooks still cite John Locke and other Enlightenment thinkers as the primary intellectual source of the American revolutionary tradition.However, more recent studies point to a complex amalgam of ideas that emerged from a wide variety of sources, including ancient thinkers such as Aristotle and Polybius; Renaissance leaders such as Machiavelli; and English opposition authors, called Commonwealthmen or Real Whigs, who wrote in the 17th and early 18th centuries (see Primary Source "Discourses Concerning Government" ).Certain women, too, concluded that the ideals of the American Revolution enabled them to claim greater social authority and intellectual equality with men (see Primary Source "A Society of Patriotic Ladies" ).If textbooks tend to understate the degree of diversity within the colonies and ignore the wide variety of participants' motives in supporting the American Revolution, they also fail to accentuate the underlying sources of unity that enabled the colonies to overcome their differences and join together in rebelling against Britain.